What Is Work? What Is Retirement?

You may know that I have followed James Altucher for years. Recently, he had investment and money guru Tony Robbins on his podcast. I am listening to MONEY by Robbins for free as an audiobook on Scribd now. Tony just made the point that pensions and retirement are a new concept. They have only been around a couple of generations. In the distant past, people ‘worked’ until they died. Simple. So what is work?

This came up quite recently, after I decided to leave a job I was doing. I’d been with the same company a couple of years and it was time to move on. Sometimes a company can keep my interest for four or five years, but not usually. Two years, it turns out, is the maximum time an intelligent person can do the same job. After that you either need to get promoted or quit. Or do your own thing, or do something completely different to get some motivation back.

Tony Robbins

One thing that came up repeatedly is this: what is work? I found it alarming that my boss really did seem to see what he was doing every day as work. So did I, but it wasn’t my company. I had assumed the owners would be doing it for love, or some higher calling. They were not. Neither was I.

Last summer, I dusted off a book I had been writing and finished it. That is a hard thing to do. Even though I had written books before, I have found it hard to actually finish them and publish them for a few years. The extra effort needed to cross the finish line is way beyond what you need just to write a draft or two. It’s also a little expensive, with cover designs and post cards and quite a few other things you need to make the launch work.

So it came up, repeatedly, that perhaps I was doing some work on the side. In addition to the day job. Well of course I was, I’ve run my own publishing company for 20 years. But is it work? Not to me. Here’s why.

The reason my publishing company makes no money is that I publish only my own work. Once you do that, it becomes challenging to separate the writing from the product. It is very, very hard. So if I don’t publish for the money, do I write for the money? No. See the earlier question. If I cannot make money publishing a book, the writer (me) doesn’t get paid.

So my writing, at the moment, my fiction writing, is not work. It doesn’t pay me any money. So it is not work. It’s that simple.

Might it become work in the future? Yes. But I don’t do it for money. I stopped that about 15 years ago, 5 years after I first started. I now write to attract women.

Only joking. Half joking. Yes, it was a joke.

The real reason I write is the same reason every other writer I know writes. Because they have to. It is a form of therapy. A way of life. It is a way to understand the world. It is a way to gain influence. It is all of these things. But it is not work and it does not make money.

The only reason to do anything, according to Tony Robbins? MOTIVATION. It is the WHY of life.

If you don’t have a purpose, you will not make any money or hit any of your other goals.

If you do have a purpose, everything else suddenly comes to you. When you no longer need or want to meet women, you suddenly find yourself surrounded by women. You get comfortable and no longer need vast wealth? That’s the day you will get rich. It’s no joke. But it is the truth.

Ernest Zevon

All the things that you thought you knew are basically the opposite of everything your parents, your teachers, your colleagues and bosses have told you. You will not retire. So get used to it. You can’t afford to.

But what if your work was so rewarding that you didn’t even want to retire? Like Jack Nicholson or Charles Dance. Great actors don’t retire. Great writers don’t retire. Yes, John le Carre, you do have yet another book out in 2017.

Find something that does not feel like work and do it until you die. Don’t make the mistakes everyone else around you is making right now.